No flavor evokes the essence of summer for me more than watermelon, so when I made this watermelon whiskey cocktail with watermelon syrup, citrus, and a healthy dose of whiskey I wanted to share it immediately. Not only does it taste refreshing (as a riff on a classic whiskey sour that’s not hard to do), but it’s also ripe with the flavor of fresh watermelon and just a few dashes of peach bitters. It’s everything I love in season in the peak of summer in cocktail form.
I’m not making a watermelon bourbon smash here, but the flavor elements are very similar here. Instead of relying on the citrus peel to build in some bitterness I look to peach bitters to add balance.
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Flavors in this Watermelon Whiskey Cocktail
Capturing the flavor of fresh watermelon in a whiskey cocktail can be tricky. Many recipes rely on muddled watermelon in a cocktail or a cooked watermelon syrup. Some even use commercially available watermelon juice.
Muddled watermelon in a cocktail can make the drink taste diluted, and changes the appearance, leaving it slightly muddy looking. Cooked watermelon syrup – the kind you see most often online – does add the flavor of watermelon, but it adds the flavor of cooked, not fresh watermelon, and I am not a fan.
Instead, I rely on a fresh watermelon simple syrup that requires no cooking at all. You need to read up on the super simple and delicious syrup here at You’re Making Your Watermelon Syrup All Wrong. While you could use fresh watermelon juice (strained) from a blender, or juice from the store, I recommend letting the sugar do the work for you for the most concentrated fresh watermelon flavor.
I also split the sour element of a standard whiskey sour – using half lime juice and half lemon juice. The additional acidity of the lime juice made the watermelon cocktail much more tart, but in a way that complemented the flavors of the fresh watermelon syrup.
But the most delicious addition to this cocktail is the peach bitters. So often, peaches and watermelon arrive in season at the same time, and my favorite smoothies combine the two of them. Adding in the bright flavors of the peach bitters tamed the sweetness of the syrup and the bourbon and cut back on the additional sourness from the lime juice.
About the Whiskey Sour
If you don’t know the history of the whiskey sour, you can read more about it here How to Make a Classic Whiskey Sour and find the naval roots of the cocktail. With its balance of ingredients sour, sweet, and spirit (plus a touch of bitters) this watermelon bourbon cocktail falls firmly into camp sour.
How to Make a Delicious and Fresh Watermelon Whiskey Cocktail
Unlike a Watermelon Whiskey Smash, which requires the use of a muddler, this watermelon cocktail is put together in a cocktail shaker (or mason jar if you like) for a quick shake with ice and strained into a fancy coupe glass.
To make it, you’ll need to make some watermelon syrup – don’t worry, it’s extremely easy and mostly hands-off. Then, gather your lime juice, lemon juice, peach bitters, and bourbon. Combine them in your shaker, fill with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds, or until the shaker is frosty cold.
Strain the watermelon bourbon cocktail into a chilled couple glass and garnish with some fresh watermelon.
The hardest part of this cocktail is not sipping it down in 30 seconds. This has quickly become one of my favorite summer cocktail recipes.
Best Way to Enjoy this Fun Drink
I prefer my whiskey sours up – shaken, but not over ice. But if you prefer your whiskey sours over the rocks in an old fashioned glass, you do you. I find it dilutes the watermelon flavor as the ice melts and leaves the cocktail bland. But you might drink faster than I do
Reasons You Love This Watermelon Bourbon Cocktail
- It’s simple to prepare once you’ve made the watermelon syrup. Just shake the ingredients together and serve in a fancy glass.
- The taste of freshness in this cocktail reigns supreme with the no-cook watermelon syrup.
- Whiskey sours are a classic drink of the summer and adding the quintessential summer flavor of watermelon makes them even more refreshing.
- It’s easy to double or triple in the shaker if you’re making drinks for friends.
- The garnish is simple – just a spear of fresh watermelon or even a leaf of mint would match well here.
Other Cocktails To Consider
If you need an idea of something that goes well with this watermelon whiskey sour, check out this great recipe for Vietnamese summer rolls, one of my favorites in the heat!
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Delicious Summer Watermelon Whiskey Cocktail
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1 oz watermelon syrup**
- 3 dashes peach bitters
- Combine bourbon, lemon, lime, watermelon syrup, and peach bitters in a shaking tin.
- Fill with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds or until the shaker is frosty cold.
- Strain into a chilled rocks glass and garnish with a fresh watermelon spear or lime wheel.